Courses of Study

African-American Studies
See course descriptions for this program 

Director, Professor Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Program Faculty and Advisory Committee: Professors Catherine Besteman (Anthropology), Cedric Gael Bryant (English), Cheryl Townsend Gilkes (African-American Studies and Sociology), Jill Gordon (Philosophy), Paul Machlin (Music), Phyllis Mannocchi (English), James Webb (History), and Robert Weisbrot (History); Associate Professors Jeffrey Anderson (Anthropology) and Margaret McFadden (American Studies); Assistant Professor Chandra Bhimull (African-American Studies and Anthropology)

The African-American Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program of courses organized to provide an overview and introduction to the experiences of peoples of African descent in the United States and to connect those experiences to the literatures, histories, and cultures of Africa and of Latin America and the Caribbean. Courses in the program expose students to classical and contemporary literature, to issues of public policy, to critical debates in history and social science, and to main currents of historical analysis and contemporary cultural expression. Students may elect a major or a minor in African-American studies built upon courses in American studies, anthropology, art, history, literature, economics, government, music, philosophy, religious studies, and sociology. The program exposes students to the history, literature, and cultures of African Americans and people of African descent throughout the Americas and requires exploration of African history and cultures. However, the program’s primary focus is on the literature, history, and culture of African Americans in the United States.

Requirements for the Major in African-American Studies
Twelve courses selected from courses specifically focused on African Americans and on peoples and cultures of Africa and the Caribbean. Seven required courses: American Studies 276, English 343 or its equivalent (e.g., English 426), History 247; at least one course focused specifically on Africa (e.g., Anthropology 237); at least one course focused specifically on the Caribbean or African-derived cultures in Latin America or the African diaspora (e.g., Anthropology 231); at least one course focused on music or other aspects of expressive culture (e.g., Music 232); and American Studies 282. Four electives from among the relevant courses in the social sciences, humanities, and relevant interdisciplinary studies programs (e.g., American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, English/Creative Writing, African Studies, Latin American Studies); at least one of the courses should be taken at the 300 or 400 level. Courses not specifically listed may be counted toward the major with permission of the director if substantial relevance can be established during a particular semester or in an off-campus program. At least one seminar at the 400 level with a member of the African-American Studies Program faculty where a substantial final paper or equivalent project explores in depth and engages significant debates about an aspect or aspects of African-American life and culture in the United States or the African diaspora. Such courses could include, when the subject material is appropriate and with the permission of the program director, American Studies 493, English 413, 426, and 493, Music 493, and Sociology 493. Course substitutions and exchanges may be made in consultation with the advisor.
Requirements for the Minor in African-American Studies
Seven courses including African-American Studies 276; English 343; History 247; one course selected from Music 232, 238, or American Studies 275, 282; at least one course focused on Africa or the Caribbean; and two courses selected from American Studies 493, Anthropology 231, English 346, 413 (when appropriate), Philosophy 213, Religious Studies 256, or Sociology 252, 355, 357, 358, 359. Course substitu-tions and exchanges may be made in consultation with the advisor.

Interested students also may consider an independent major in Africana studies (a selection of courses combining study of the Caribbean, the Americas, and Africa) or an independent major that combines African-American studies with another relevant discipline or program, especially American studies, anthropology, Latin American studies, African studies, or music. Majors and minors are instructed to inform faculty in various programs and departments that they are African-American studies majors or minors when seeking the permission of an instructor to register for courses restricted to majors in other disciplines or when asking that prerequisites be waived.
Courses that apply to the African-American studies major
  • American Studies 
    • 276 African-American Culture in the United States
    • 282 American Popular Culture
    • 493 Seminar in American Studies
  • Anthropology 
    • 211 Indigenous Peoples and Cultures of North America
    • 213 Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples
    • 231 Caribbean Cultures
    • 237 Ethnographies of Africa
    • 341 Culture, Mobility, Identity: Encounters in the African Diaspora
    • 354 Native American Religion and Empowerment
  • English 
    • 343 African-American Literature
    • 346 Culture and Literature of the American South
    • 413 Authors Courses (when appropriate)
    • 426 African-American Women Writers
    • 493 Seminar: Toni Morrison
  • History 
    • 247 African-American History, from Slavery to Freedom
    • 261 African History
  • Music
    • 114 Jazz Improvisation
    • 118 African Music
    • 232 Jazz History
    • 238 Burnt Biscuits and Green Onions: From Rhythm and Blues to Soul
  • Philosophy
    • 213 Philosophical Inquiries into Race
    • 360 African Philosophies, 1945 to Present
  • Religious Studies
    • 256 The African-American Religious Experience
  • Sociology
    • 214 African-American Elites and Middle Classes
    • 252 Race, Ethnicity, and Society
    • 355 African-American Women and Social Change
    • 357 Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change
    • 358 The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois
    • 359 Slavery and Slave Communities in the United States 
Note: Additional courses may be available from time to time as temporary offerings and may be counted toward the major with permission of the program director, for example AR 297 History of African American Art, EN 397 Modern African Fiction, EN 398B Narratives of Contact and Captivity, HI 398 History of Southern Africa, SO 397 The Sociology of Alice Walker.